Emergency declaration will give city authorities resources and ability to shelter migrants who have crossed the Mexican border, says mayor of Texas border city of El Paso.
The mayor of the Texas border city of El Paso has declared a state of emergency, citing the hundreds of migrants sleeping on the streets in cold temperatures and the thousands being apprehended every day.
Mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, said on Saturday the emergency declaration would give city authorities the resources and ability to shelter migrants who have crossed the Mexican border.
"We wanted to make sure people are treated with dignity. We want to make everyone safe," Leeser told reporters.
The move comes as El Paso, a Democratic stronghold with a history of welcoming immigrants, has struggled in recent months to deal with tens of thousands of migrants crossing the border with Mexico.
The city is bracing for a possible jump in migrant arrivals after a US judge ordered Covid-era border restrictions known as Title 42 to end by December 21.
A record number of migrants have been caught crossing the US-Mexico border under President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021, fuelling attacks by Republican opponents who favour tougher policies.
READ MORE: Migrants pack Mexico-US border as Trump-era asylum curbs near end
BREAKING: Mayor Oscar Leeser had declared a 🚨 State of Emergency 🚨 for the City of El Paso due to the large influx of migrants across the border. He says the low temperatures & high number of people sleeping on the streets has become “unsafe.”— andra litton (@tornandra) December 18, 2022
Nearly 2,500 migrants per day
US border agents have encountered an average of more than 2,400 migrants per day in a 430-kilometres stretch of the border known as the El Paso Sector over the past week, according to figures published by the city, a 40 percent increase compared with October.
Even as government officials move migrants in El Paso to other US cities, local shelters are beyond capacity and migrants have been sleeping on the streets as temperatures dip below freezing.
Mario D'Agostino, El Paso's deputy city manager, said the emergency declaration will also provide the city with extra transportation options to bus migrants to other locations, and extra help from state law enforcement "to protect the migrants and the community at large."
The city announced on December 14 that it expected to receive $6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide food, shelter and transportation.
As migrant arrivals increased in late August, the city launched a busing program that sent nearly 14,000 migrants to New York and Chicago, saying many Venezuelans were arriving without US sponsors to fund their travel away from the border.
The city halted the programme in October when the Biden administration began expelling Venezuelans back to Mexico under Title 42, but could restart it if Venezuelans again are allowed to cross into El Paso, D'Agostino said on Thursday.
READ MORE: US judge throws out 'inhumane' Title 42 policy that expelled migrants